Tuesday, May 17, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Malaysia’s three singles players powered their team to the top position in Thomas Cup Group C at the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2016 today.
Malaysia’s 3-2 victory over Korea was their third successive win in the group.
Lee Chong Wei, as expected, gave his team a flying start, holding off stubborn early resistance from Son Wan Ho to prevail 21-18 21-15.
Malaysia played a gambit in the doubles. The regular doubles pairs were recombined, and Goh V Shem and Koo Kien Keat shouldered responsibility against Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong. The recombination did not matter to the Koreans, who completed their win in 40 minutes.
With Korea’s undoubted strength in doubles, it was up to Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin to swing the advantage Malaysia’s way. Pitted against Lee Dong Keun, to whom he had lost the last two matches, Zainuddin rose to the occasion. Deriving his energy from his vocal team in the stands, and frequently pumping his fist at them after scoring a point, Zainuddin scarcely did a thing wrong as he powered past Lee Dong Keun, 21-17 21-15.
“I came in today feeling confident,” said Zainuddin. “I did feel a bit of pressure, but I used that to my advantage. It was a personal challenge. Dong Keun probably felt anxious because he had beaten me twice and was the favourite. I’m happy to contribute a point to my country; Lee Chong Wei told me my match would be the turning point.”
Malaysia’s second experiment in Tan Boon Heong/Tan Wee Kiong did not pay dividends either, although they did give Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang plenty of trouble. The Koreans still came away victorious 21-14 24-22.
It was finally a battle between the youthful energy of Jeon Hyeok Jin and the experience of Chong Wei Feng. Experience won on the day, with Chong (featured image) triumphant at 21-16 21-16.
“I’m glad because it’s been a while since I’ve played this well, I’m really satisfied,” said Chong Wei Feng. “The important thing is we’ve now qualified for the quarter-finals as group winners. However, the mission is far from over and we have yet to achieve our target (semi-finals), so it’s important that we stay calm and patient.
“I have always prepared well because I know when I take to court it has got to be for a crucial point. I like to think of this challenge as a motivation for me to do well.”
Uber Cup Group C saw Thailand outplay Indonesia 3-2. The Thais won the tie by the fourth match: Ratchanok Intanon and Busanan Ongbumrungphan winning their singles and Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Rawinda Prajongjai edging past Anggia Shitta Awanda/Tiara Rosalia Nuraidah in a 75-minutes long match, 14-21 21-17 24-22, after saving two match points.
Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska reduced the margin in the fifth match, surprising Nitchaon Jindapol 13-21 21-14 22-20. Mariska staged a fine recovery from 14-19 and 17-20 down, capturing the last five points and the match.
Two other ties went on expected lines. Chinese Taipei routed South Africa 5-0 (Thomas Cup Group D) and India enjoyed similar domination over Germany in Uber Cup Group D.